New Physical Interpretation of the Yin-Yang and Five Element Theory for Health Application
(1):Constitution Classification

Dong-Soon Jang, Assoc. Prof.
Department of Environmental Engineering,
Chungnam National University
Taejon, Republic of Korea 305-764
e-mail :

ABSTRACT : This paper presents a general model of constitution classification based on the new, physical interpretation of the inherent properties of Five Elements, the theory of which appears in one of the main concept of oriental philosophy. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water and their basic properties are defined in this paper as warm and soft energy for Wood, explosively dispersive energy or heat for Fire, agglomerating or cohesive, binding energy for Earth, tensile or crystallizing energy for Metal, and cool and slippery energy for Water, respectively.

By doing this, five different constitution classification together with the overall personal character can be determined according to the face shape. This constitution classification supplies the information of the relative strength of major organs corresponding to the Five Elements and knowing the information of constitution in advance plays a critically important role to diagnosis the possible susceptibility of disease for a person.

Further, it can be emphasized that generalization of application to various areas be possible using the Yin-Yang & Five Elements theory for health therapy by taste, diagnosis of blood pulse palpation, explanation of unhealthy symptoms like oily face, physiological research like blood coagulation, together with the area of emotional sensibility, toxicology, psychology, agriculture, and even the probable time of occurrence of disease in a day, season, or year, etc.


This paper is concerned about the new physical interpretation of one of the old oriental philosophy, say, the Yin-Yang and Five Element Theory, especially in the view of thermal and fluid concept. This theory includes the basic properties of Yin-Yang and Five Elements themselves, together with the cycles of mutual life (the cycle of generation) and mutual destruction (cycle of destruction). This is the main idea of Nei Ching, or Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine. This book is known as the greatest medical bible in oriental countries and shows the interdisplinary feature covering not only for internal medicine such as acupuncture and health diet, but also astronomy, psychology, and biology etc.

As mentioned already, the purpose of this paper is mainly centered about to present a reliable model for constitution classification by the definition of Five Elements. Further, a few comments are made for the possible application of this theory to diet by taste therapy, analysis of personal character, and the brief idea of diagnosis of blood pulse, etc. Before the discussion of main topic, a brief description is made about the Yin-Yang and Five Element Theory.

2. Yin & Yang and Five Element Theory

2.1 Positive and negative (Yin and Yang )

The key concept of oriental philosophy is the idea of energy polarity, as expressed by Yin(negative) and Yang(positive). The oriental theory states that the entire universe can be modeled as an oscillation of the forces of Yin and Yang. As a matter of fact, there are numerous examples of such an opposite or complementary concept, for examples, male and female, positive and negative electric charge, N- and S- magnetic pole, matter and antimatter, electron and positron, wave and particle duality, day and night, full moon and new moon , spring/summer and fall/winter, white and black holes, even and odd number, day and night, centripetal and centrifugal, the left and right brains, implosion and explosion, etc.

The scientific evidence of antimatter, that is , the theoretical prediction for the existence of antimatter by Paul A.M. Dirac in 1928 and the experimental observation by Carl Andreson in 1932, gives more confidence that Yin-Yang could be a basic theory in nature. Further, for example, considering the paramount influence of the change of day and night on the human physiology like the variation of blood pulse intensity, the method of precise diagnosis and control of Yin-Yang in health control could be extremely important. But the aspect of Yin-Yang is not a topic in this paper. Yang is veiewed as he positive or male aspect: active, generative, associated with sun, light, and the creative principle of life. On the other hand, Yin is seen as the negative or female element: passive, destructive, associated with the moon, darkness and death. The dualistic principle of Yin and Yang extends into all aspects of life cycles and cosmic processes. The Nei Ching says that the entire universe is an oscillation of the forces of Yin and Yang.(Richard, 1955) Not only the power or force moves in a curved path, but also it is the universal life-principle manifesting in nature. Life comes into the world according to the frequency and amplitude of the oscillation of Yin and Yang. The higher frequency, the more sophisticated creature is born (Coats, 1995).

2.2 Five Elements (Five Phases)

During the change of yin and yang, it is believed that the flow of Five Elements or Phases occurs. The Five-Element theory is a primary relationship in the oriental system. It relates all the energy, substance and time of day and year to one of the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. In fact, oriental medicine identifies every part of the body with one of the Five Elements.

Table 1. Elemental association of the organs & viscera and others

Element Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Organ Liver Heart Spleen Lung Kidney
Hollow viscera Gall Small intestine Stomach Large intestine Bladder
Five taste Sour Bitter Sweet Hot Salty
Color Blue Red Yellow White Black
Day Dawn Morning Noon Afternoon Evening
Cereals Red bean Sorghum Millet Brown rice Black bean
Property Warm & soft Dispersive & hot Sticky & binding Fixed & tensile Cool & slippery

There are two basic cycles that illustrate the interaction between these elements. In the first cycle, known as the Cycle of Generation, each element generates or produces the succeeding element. This is sometimes known as the Mother-Son law. One element gives birth to the next and nourishes it by a flow of energy. For example, Wood produces Fire by supplying the wood as a fuel. Fire produces Earth by burning wood, and ashes are returned to the earth. Maybe you can find the phenomenon of ' Fire produces Earth' in the humid weather in midsummer on hot summer days. In order to understand this remark, you need to realize that the property of Earth is very similar to the sticky and humid weather in midsummer. The Earth produces Metal. Metallic ores are found within the earth. Or earth is transformed into metal by the action of high pressure. Metal produces Water. One of the scientific evidence of 'Metal produces Water' can be found in that the source of flowing water can be frequently found near mineral deposits. Finally, Water produces Wood. Trees grow by absorbing water through their roots. Then the cycle begins again. Wood produces Fire and Fire produces Earth. In the creation cycle, Wood is considered as the son of Water and also the mother of Fire.

The connections between Five Elements described here seem somewhat metaphorical than literal, for example, Wood standing for warm and soft energy. But you will see this kind of metaphysical definition can be widely generalized to various areas of application such as constitution classification, analysis of personal character, physiological phenomena such as oily face, blood coagulation, and constipation, etc., even a lot, like the diagnosis of blood pulse palpation. In addition, they also demonstrate definite energetic principles through meridians or physical evidence by diet of food in a human body. For instance, if you unusually take too much sweet food, then the performance of your stomach will greatly increase but you will suffer from some symptoms like constipation and the increased tendency of blood coagulation in bleeding. To understand this, you need to check again the property of Earth, as defined in Table 1, as 'sticky and binding'. Further Earth is related to the sweet taste and the organ of stomach.

In the second cycle, known as the Cycle of Destruction, each element attacks the one after the succeeding element. It is really a control cycle in that it represents the process by which the elements check and balance one another. If the strength of each element is equally fair, they will simply follow the cycle of mutual life, that is, the Cycle of Generation. However, if one element becomes too strong or too weak, it can attack another or be injured. Thus, the strong Wood can injure Earth (roots penetrate the soil or if the root absorbs too much of nutrients from the earth, the quality of earth will become deteriorated). Earth controls Water via dams. For metaphysical example, the stickly property of Earth obstructs the flowing of Water. Water injures Fire by extinguishing it out. Fire destroys Metal (Metal can be melted by strong Fire). The strong, dispersive force or energy by Fire disturbs the force of tense, fixed tendency of Metal. Metal destroys Wood as an axe cuts a tree, and the mutual destruction cycle begins again. These two cycles of Generation and Destruction together with the basic properties of Five Elements form the fundamental theory or model in this paper.

2.3 Simple application of Five Element theory

One of the key theories of oriental medicine is that each taste of Five Elements nourishes the corresponding organ. For instance, if you take sour tasting food, your organs of Wood such as liver and gall will be nourished. Similarly, bitter taste goes to the organ of Fire such as heart and the small intestine. The sweet taste does the organ of Earth such as spleen and stomach. The hot taste does the Metal organ such as lung and large intestine. Finally, the salty taste nourishes the Water organ such as kidney and bladder. The importance of the taste on the corresponding organ is so powerful that it overwhelms, in most cases the effect of the other properties food and herb such as the nature, color, or shape, etc. These days, the properties of the chemically prepared western medicine are so strong that most people do not recognize the importance of the power of taste itself. This is one of tragedy mankind faces now.

For example of taste therapy, if you take too much amount of food of sour taste, which is more than you need, the excess part of Wood energy will flow to attack the Earth organ. Thus you will feel shortly the pain of stomach after having excessive food and drugs such as barley, red bean, wheat, vitamin C and aspirin. The well-known example of this is the stomach ulcer caused by aspirin

You may easily understand that this happening follows the route of the second mutual destruction cycle. Similarly, if you try too much food of sweet taste, the extra energy of Earth will goes to attack the organ Water such as kidney and bladder. Thus, you will have the trouble in the part of body controlled by the organ of kidney and bladder. For example, you will feel more frequently the desire of passing urine or pain of the ear, etc. If you have too much food of salty taste, like table salt or black bean, the excessive energy of Water flows into the realm of Fire, which attacks the organ of heart and the small intestine. Thus you will feel the heart pain, hypertension and sweating especially on the face, etc. Excessive diet of bitter food gives rise to the trouble of the lung and the large intestine, for instance, bleeding from anus, diarrhea, and skin disease. Believe or not most of the adverse side effect of antibiotic medicine on lung and the large intestine is caused by the function of bitter taste of medicine. Similar arguments can be also made for other organs. You may find the more detailed specific body symptoms, which caused by dieting of excessive food of each element (Kim, 1998; Jang, 1999)

Scientific evidence of mutual destruction of five elements can be found easily in open literature of various areas of interest. In this paper, two well-known examples are cited in the area of toxicology and food science, particularly dealing with the importance of taste of food. In the area of food science, it is known that the addition of salt as flavoring agents enhances flavor by suppressing bitterness than sweetness (Breslin and Beauchamp, 1997) In more details, when salt (sodium acetate, Water) was added into the mixture of aqueous solutions of a bitter substance (Fire, urea) and sweet one (sucrose, Earth, an artificial sweetener), statistical analysis revealed that the intensity of bitterness greatly decreased, whereas the sweetness intensity increased levels that approximated the sweetness of sucrose alone in pure water. They did not give any proper explanation of the mechanism why salt suppresses the taste of bitterness, etc.

But Five Element theories can easily explain this phenomena in that Water destroys Fire and Soil also destroys Water. Thus the taste of bitterness decreased, while the taste of sweetness is not influenced to the extent of bitter one. The other example may be found in the risk assessment area of artificial sweetener in toxicology. In June 1969, Abbott laboratories reported that bladder cancer had occurred in animals exposed for long periods of time to Sucaryl (10:1 cyclamate to saccharin). At about the same time, studies by a FDA scientist, indicating that cyclamates produced birth defects when injected into chicken eggs. (Kamrin, 1988). A couple of these illustrations by example clearly show that the sweet taste of Earth attacks the organ of Water.

2.4 Constitution Classification by the shape of face

The basic physical properties of Five Elements are defined here as warm and soft energy for wood, explosively dispersive energy for Fire, agglomerating, binding force among the same kind of material for Earth, tension or crystallization energy for Metal, and cool and slippery energy for Water. Based on these physical definitions, the characteristic shape of the face of each Element will be figured out, and thereby constitution classification will be made. (Jang, 1998) The reason why we determine the constitution classification only with the shape of face may be explained by the fact that all positive qi meridians go through the face and thereby the proportion of each Element can be more vividly visualized in the form of matter on the face other than any part of human body. Further, in oriental science, qi is defined as energy with character or characteristic energy. Thus the different proportion of qi energy of person will show up with different shape of face.

Wood face: The inherent property of Wood stands for the warm and soft Energy as heat haze appeared in the season of spring. From the view of heat transfer and fluid flow, the warm fluid with reduced density will have the force of upward buoyancy as shown in the figure below.

Therefore the person who has the large qi or energy of Wood in a body will have the long face. Since the Wood energy is known to be generated from the liver and gall, the person who has the long face, that is, a large aspect ratio, will have the large size of liver and gall. We may further imagine that the long face person will have the personal character of Wood property, say, kind, tender, and progressive tendency.

The shape of Wood face:

yin6.gif (1187 bytes)

Fire face: Since we define the intrinsic property of Fire as explosively dispersive energy, we can imagine the shape of Fire face will be the geometry of the triangle upside down. This is the similar picture, which we imagine when the highly pressurized gas with high temperature disperses on the moment of the rupture of a container. Thus the person who has the large 'heart and the small intestine' will have the face shape like the triangle upside down. The personal character of this kind of person usually shows as artistic, passionate, and aggressive but no persistent for a long time.

The shape of Fire face: yin3.gif (1209 bytes)

Earth face: The force or energy of Earth comes from the organ of spleen and stomach and the basic properties of this element is assumed to be binding or cohesive each other. We can see these kind of physical examples as in the surface tension of water or mercury droplets. In this case the shape of geometry should be spherical form, that is, the minimal surface area to the volume occupied due to the radially converging force to the center of the sphere, as shown in the following figure. Thus, we can deduce that the person with this kind of spherical shape of face will have the personality, which does not care to the eye of the other persons around him. In other words, he or she has no sense of taking care of other persons. He used to pay attention to himself only.

The shape of Earth face: yin5a.gif (1172 bytes)

Metal face : The tensile or crystallizing force or energy of Metal comes from the organ of 'lung and the large intestine'. Thus, the person who has the large 'lung and large intestine' will have the face of square shape. The person of this shape has the character of routine, willing to win, and authoritative tendency.

The shape of Metal face: yin4.gif (1042 bytes)

Water face : The energy of Water is known to come from the organ of kidney and bladder in a human body. Since the properties of 'water' are assumed slippery, and cool, the person with large organ of 'water' element will have the face of triangular shape as shown in the following figure. This face can be imagined from the downward flow of cold water due to negative buoyancy.

The person who has this kind of shape will show the personal character of amiable, patient and hiding tendency. In order to understand this personal character, just remember the definition of fluid as the substance of continuous deformation as long as the existence of shear stress applied. The Water shaped person with trouble with other person will react like water under shear stress.

The shape of Water face: yin5.gif (1205 bytes)

The face based on the constitution classification described above is summarized in Table 2. Once you can successfully classify the classification together with the information of his or her blood pulse palpation, you may predict lot of things about his or her clinical history and the possible susceptibility of disease. In Table 2, a brief description of personality of each constitution is made together with the basic feeling of blood pulse palpation of each element. You may easily find that all these arguments are made, simply based on the physical concept of each Element defined above.

One thing to be emphasized in Table 2 is that every part of human body is governed and influenced by the performance of major organs and the problem of each part or symptoms appeared in Table 2 can be treated simply by the nourishing the corresponding major organs it belongs. This treatment could be made many ways by taste, acupuncture, sound, aroma, color , foot reflex or even mind therapy. On the contrary, the problem of any major organs can be cured by the stimulus or exercise of the part belonged to each organ. For example, if you have any disease in your liver, you may take care of this, simply by the muscle exercise or movement of the hip joint articulation. Note ,as you can see in Table 2, that muscle and hip joint are parts governed by liver and gall. The combination of all these treatments consist of a holistic therapy of oriental medicine.

Table 2. The summarized table of inherent attribute of Five Elements

Five Element













Warm & soft energy upward

Explosively Dispersive heat

Sticky, agglomerating energy

Tension or Crystallization Energy

Cool & slippery Energy Downward

Face shape or Figure

yin6.gif (1187 bytes)

yin3.gif (1209 bytes) yin5a.gif (1172 bytes) yin4.gif (1042 bytes) yin5.gif (1205 bytes)

Personal Character

Kind Tender Progressive

Artistic Passionate no persistent

no sense never disgusting certain

Routine Authoritative Obligatory

Amiable, Slippery, patient, hiding

Major organ*

liver(-) gall(+)

Heart(-) the small intestine

spleen(-) stomach(+)

lung(-) the large intestine (+)

Kidney(-) Bladder(+)

Feeling of pulse

tender and large

Large and No feeling

hard sweet potato hitting feeling

long, tension, elastic

Bouncing feeling of soft small water droplet

Part of human Body

eye, neck, hip joint, foot, tonsils, muscle, nail, toenail

Elbow joint, face, Upper arm, Tongue, blood, Blood vessel, Spade bone

fat, belly, knee, upper leg, mouth, lips

Skin, nose, Body hair, breast, the anus, the wrist

bone, bone marrow, tendon, waist, ear, teeth, hair, ankle




Late summer






















Red Ben



Brown Rice

Black bean

Domestic Animals






Unhealthy Symptom








oily face



* - organ,  + empty viscera

3. Conclusion

Based on the new interpretation of the Yin & Yang and Five Element theory, constitution classification is made with the shape of face. To this end, the basic properties of Five Elements are defined using the physics of the thermal & fluid concept. By doing this, the relative strength or size of each organ in a human body can be determined simply by the geometrical shape of each face. This information can be greatly helpful in advising the diet of health and disease treatment, even more, if the blood pulse palpation information available. The power of this kind of generalization approach by defining the basic properties lies in that the basic concept can be applied equally in many areas such as blood pulse palpation, personal character, psychology, human body physiology, and toxicology,etc. Special emphasis is given on the taste therapy of food or herb for the treatment of various disease, together with the holistic view of the Yin-Yang and Five Element theory.